When you walk into a room to give a presentation, one of the best ways to break down the barrier between you and your audience is to form an immediate personal connection. We always talk about building rapport in the context of one-on-one interactions; however, the same principle applies in a group setting where it’s very important to establish good rapport with your whole audience—after all, you want each and every one of them on your side when they compare notes with each other later to make a decision.
So how do you make an immediate personal connection? It’s good practice to make eye contact with each person in your audience. You shouldn’t stare at anyone (of course), but you should scan the room and make eye contact while you speak.
Ideally, you will know at least one person by name, whether it’s the person who walked you into the room or someone you know from a previous engagement. If you do, address that person by name in front of the audience: "Hey, Tom, how are you doing? Thanks again for the help last week walking through 123 Main Street." What does that do immediately? It shows that you’re friendly and that you have a personal relationship with someone in the audience. In turn, the rest of the audience will subconsciously feel more comfortable with you knowing that you’re buddy-buddy with one of their friends.